One more weekend off, one more monsoon. I’ve always wanted to come to Moldova & Transnistra for a few reasons:
- Former Romanian-turned-USSR enclave rebuilt by Kruschev and thus currently one of the last few capital cities other than Minsk and Pyongyang to feature Soviet-style architecture as part of everyday life.
- Breakaway/renegade self-proclaimed separatist region of Transnistra is one of 4 non-UN (aka unrecognized) countries in the world other than South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Artsakh.
- Last year I had bought Moldovan money off from one of my favorite monsooners/travelers (believe it or not she feels the same way), Melissa Weinmann, right after her hilarious day in Chisinau and before we began our Trans-Siberian journey
- . . . Then I realized that there’s such thing called inflation and that I may need to spend this cash quick before it depreciated any further!
And although I thought I was gonna go at it alone, Nick — whom I met back when I spoke at MAASU at Madison, WI in 2015 (in that link to the blogpost, there’s a group selfie where you can pick him out directly in the center; he’s wearing a striped maroon and black shirt while sitting down and waving his hand) — would join me literally at the last minute for the weekend.
I had no idea this would be his first time leaving the continental USA (except for a one time cruise to Mexico), hence his first time crossing an ocean and visiting Europe. Well, I’m honored. There’s a first time for everything!
We headed to Newark Airport at 4pm, catching the 5:30pm United Airlines flight to Munich. Given this is Nick’s first time in Europe, it was amusing to see him accidentally (and totally my fault for telling him to do it before checking myself) go through passport control only to find out that Moldova is not technically part of the Schengen Agreement and that he didn’t need to be stamped in at all in Munich. Given that we had only an hour to make the connecting flight, he rushed back through passport control a second time after only 5 minutes in Europe and caught our connecting flight to Chisinau just in time. I just sat by the gate getting ready to block the door if he was running late. After what almost happened in getting Paris and what definitely happened in getting to Slovenia, I wasn’t going to take any chances.
We arrived in Chisinau at noon:
It was around this point where a guy named Aryk approached us, having overheard our Americanized English, asking if we were from the States. When we affirmed, one question led to another where Aryk and I found out we were both born in New York City at Mount Sinai Hospital (That AND he said he had heard of The Monsoon Diaries when I showed him my card…this warms my heart)!
Of course this would lead to a natural friendship and his offer to give us a ride back into the city with his fellow Romanian friend and New Yorker, George, who told us hilarious stories of his time crossing the border into Transnistra.
It took about 20 minutes to drive from the airport into the city center. It just so happens as well that Aryk lives 2 blocks away from our hostel.
After parting with Aryk with promises to have drinks again before we leave, we checked in at Amazing Ionika Hostel and headed out for lunch at Aryk’s recommendation to Propaganda Café, which was stellar in both its food, Soviet decor, and impeccable service.
After an hour lunchin’, we started our day tour of Chisinau at 2pm, first stopping by at the Water Tower 2 blocks away. A former water tower, it has been converted into a War Museum and panoramic rooftop lookout. The entry fee is 10 lei.
Head up to the 7th floor for the city views of Chisinau:
After 20 minutes here we headed down 2 blocks to Parcul Valea Morilor, also at Aryk’s recommendation for scenic views of the nearby lake.
We headed down the steps, similarly designed to the Ptomekin Stairs in Odessa.
We spent about 10 minutes walking by the lake before heading back up a beautiful fountain.
We then walked north, walking through the line of monuments at Monument to Alexander Pushkin Park and Stefan cel Mare Monument.
Across the street is the giant Casa Guvernului (Government House):
Turn left (northwest) up a few blocks along Stefan cel Mare Boulevard to check out the imposing Presidency of the Republic of Moldova Building . . .
. . . which faces the Parliament of Moldova.
We then walked in the opposite direction along the same boulevard southeast to the center of the city, marked by The Triumphal Arch in front of the The Metropolitan Cathedral “Nativity of the Lord.“
The rules state that no photos are allowed inside the church, but nobody really cared:
Afterwards we returned onto the boulevard and headed down more southwest.
Take a peek at Ciuflea Monastery along the way:
The boulevard finally concludes at Grigorii Kotovskii Monument
We then mosey’ed over around the roundabout to the nearby Train Station.
Knowing that one of my stalwart monsooner guides, Taylan, and my travel brother Gareth of Young Pioneer Tours were also going to be in Chisinau in a a week with the Eurasia Tour group (but that we we would narrowly miss them since we’re only here for 2 days), I decided to leave Taylan and Gareth a little note to find. Good luck!
Can you see where I hid it?
After the train station we retraced our steps and headed south on Strada Ismail to conclude our day tour at the World War II Memorial (Eternitate Memorial Complex). I highly recommend going at night.
We then returned to the hostel, immediately befriending a fellow American from Seattle named Reece, and her best friend that she met on her 13 month travels, an Australian from Melbourne named Ben, before taking them out for dinner and shisha at the best place you can start your night at in Chisinau: Draft. And so our night begins.
And did I mention yet how crazy their DO NOT signs are here?
- At time of posting in Chisinau, it was 9 °C - Humidity: 94% | Wind Speed: 13km/hr | Cloud Cover: overcast and drizzle